In tight Quarters

What a great and terrifying experience.

In the tight quarters of a fifth wheel trailer everything is amplified. Sitting on the couch I am three feet from three furnace exhaust fans blasting heat, and the cold air return. I’m four feet from the kitchen that also serves as dining room with kitty litter box, front hall, closet and pantry, and hallway to the “upstairs” “ensuite” open-concept bathroom. It is also our utility room with a breaker and fuse box. We had to pull one of those fuses tonight because the upstairs furnace wouldn’t shut off, threatening both fire and running out of propane. The nights are currently cold, so the other furnace – the one I’m baking beside – will run on and off through the night. This morning we poured boiling water down our grey water hose to thaw the frozen chunk of grey water that when steamed in your face smells an awful lot like black water. We do this fairly frequently (not the steaming, that was a first), but not as frequently as we empty the bucket that collects that same grey/black water from our holding tanks. One of the seals, grey or black, doesn’t seal completely, so if we don’t collect the leakage it spills on the ground and freezes under the trailer, until it melts and smells suspiciously like black water. But again, I’m calling it grey water for piece of mind. The hot water heater leaks, but while it’s cold out it only forms an icicle on the side of the trailer. When it melts, that water seeps under the trailer and comes out the curbside – the one with the door – and you know, it smells like black water too. Oddly, I like trailer life. We could live in this thing on a chunk of land with the only overhead being the threat of e.coli or growing a third arm, and I’m okay with that.

I work at the gas station down the highway from here, which I kind of enjoy. I won’t tell you how much it pays an hour. Tricia works for about the same wage at the nordic centre, but she has other means to make ends meet. I do too but it involves cashing in my pension which at this rate, we’re going to need in spades if we make it that far. My parents worry as they will (What went wrong with Martin? Is he dumb? – obscure Rheostatics reference), and you know, so do I.

But when I got home from work tonight and stepped out of the car with my hands full of things, I looked around at the night sky that was impaired by neither city lights nor cloud, a full canopy of stars. “Wow,” was my remark, and I smiled. I looked to the north over the ambling mountain there, a backdrop silhouette ragged with the outline of pine trees running the length of its shoulder. I looked across the valley to another mountain over there, another blackened and jagged horizon as the undersea of an even darker and wild world above. And to the east, to the west, all about I stood at the height of the valley but still towered by other things still taller, and I watched the stars from the centre of the universe.

I don’t know what’s going to happen here. I wish I could find some work that is both meaningful and well paid, but right now my mind is telling me that’s a stretch. My mental health has me frozen in time, and I wring peace out of nature and try to haul it back with me into the real world. I’m being patient, and I’m still grateful.

Tomorrow I am joining the Oknakanee Friendship Centre for a session they call Writing Out Loud. They welcome people of all nations to come and with guidance write their life’s story. I have believed in this practice for a long time. I always had a hope of delivering something like this to help our first nations students…sorry, the first nations students of a school board I supported to find their voices. I offered my help to the Oknakanee too and was invited to join their session. And that’s the catch. In my arrogance I didn’t see that I really need help myself, that I need to write my life’s story, and all of this will be a part of it.

Wow. I haven’t written much lately because I’m at a loss for words about this experience. We’ve shed our skin, and face the world raw and vibrant. We weather storms.


  1. Esmé Comfort on February 13, 2018 at 1:04 pm

    Keep writing, Kevin, please.

  2. Edward Currelly on February 17, 2018 at 2:18 pm

    we’re coming this summer! sort out your coloured water! (enjoying every piece of writing btw)

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